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Native Title agreements under examination

THE Office of Native Title is examining an Indigenous Land Use Agreement delivered to six WA Government Ministers earlier this month, with a request for Government participation.

The agreement, reached between the South West Aboriginal Land and Sea Council, 16 Wheatbelt councils, and three Native Title claimant groups, requires government participation in order to be truly effective in land acquisition and disposal.

The Office of Native Title has responsibility for assisting the Government to determine if it is capable of fulfilling arrangements contained within the agreement, should it become a participant.

When initial talks on the agreement began three years ago, such agreements were reportedly considered more in favour than they are now.

However, there is believed to be some concern at possible com-plications for the Department of Industry and Resources and the Department of Land Administration, which must comply with the Native Title Act in land acquisition and disposal processes.

Potentially these departments could be dealing with several mini acts, each requiring different processes, when sorting out acquisition and disposal for different areas of land within WA.

The Office of Native Title declined this week to offer official comment on the ILUA under consideration, saying it would first need to look at the document properly.

SWALSC manager, directorate Roger Cook said the council had a close relationship with the Office of Native Title and had received positive comments thus far on the style of the ILUA.

The SWALSC was hoping to achieve similar agreements with other local government coalitions, as Noongar people lived within 118 WA local government zones.

Mr Cooks said the advantage of an ILUA was that it was a lasting arrangement, clearly setting out rights and offering additional protection to other agreements.

Marcus Holmes, legal advisor to the council coalition, the Central Country Zone, said such agreements afforded control to Aboriginal groups within the regions, and were win-wins for all participants.

He said the agreement was not making any claims of whether or not Native Title existed, it was purely dealing with getting land development happening more efficiently and quickly.

Support for ILUAs was apparent from Native Title Tribunal statements and from funding granted to the Central Country Zone for this purpose, from the Federal Attorney General’s Department.

Mr Holmes said a rural summit attended by 65 local government authorities in Pinjarra in February had called for less red tape on land access and development issues.

The agreement, which will bind all present and potential land claimants, has gone to the Premier and the Ministers for Native Title, Indigenous Affairs, Local Government and Regional Development, The Midwest, Wheatbelt and Great Southern regions and Planning and Infrastructure.

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